It takes a lot to overshadow both Judy Garland and Louis Armstrong with one song, but the late Iz Kamakawiwo’ole did just that with his medley version of “Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World.” From films to television shows, the song was everywhere and directed the pop spotlight onto the Hawaiian superstar, bringing international attention to the giant man with the beautiful voice.
Before he was a celebrated solo artist, Kamakawiwo’ole, along with his older brother Skippy Kamakawiwo’ole, was a founding member of the Makaha Sons of Ni’ihau, one of Hawaii’s most popular musical groups. Formed in 1976 on the Kona side of O’ahu, the Makaha Sons are a long-running ensemble that has kept alive the vision of the Kamakawiwo’ole brothers to share the beauty of Hawaii, her people and her music.
Despite losing both Kamakawiwo’ole brothers – Iz left the group to pursue a solo career then passed away in 1997; Skippy passed away in 1982 – the Makaha Sons have carried on and remain one of Hawaii’s most beloved musical acts. They’ve released 21 albums and they’ve received numerous awards and accolades including a 2010 Na Hoku Hanohano lifetime achievement award. Although the group’s lineup has changed over the years, the tradition and spirit of aloha that has imbued the group since its inception remains intact.
Famous for their outstanding vocal arrangements, fun-loving stage shows and commitment to preserving Hawaiian culture, the Makaha Sons are ambassadors of the islands, sharing their love and pride of Hawaii with the world. The current lineup features Louis “Moon” Kauakahi on 6-string guitar, John Koko on upright acoustic bass and Jerome Koko on 12-string guitar.
The Makaha Sons play the Montalvo Arts Center on Sunday, January 16.